India’s foreign minister demanded Thursday that the United States drop the case against a diplomat who was arrested and strip-searched in New York City, saying she was the victim of a blackmail attempt by her housekeeper.

The case has sparked a diplomatic furor between the United States and India, which is incensed over what its officials describe as degrading treatment of Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York.

Khobragade, 39, is accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her Manhattan housekeeper, an Indian national. According to prosecutors, Khobragade claimed she paid the woman $4,500 a month, but actually paid her around $3 per hour.

The case has sparked widespread outrage in India, where the idea of an educated, middle-class woman facing a strip-search is almost unheard of, except in the most extraordinary crimes. In an unusual step, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan publicly defended Khobragade’s treatment, and questioned why there was more outrage over Khobragade than for the housekeeper.

On Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid took issue with the entire premise of the case and accused the housekeeper of blackmail. He told reporters that the housekeeper had threatened over the summer to go to the police unless Khobragade arranged a new passport for her, along with a work visa and a large sum of money. see more